WhatsApp has long prided itself on end-to-end encryption and preserving the privacy of the messages we send ourselves with our contacts. What is not talked about so much is the metadata that it does access: This “data about your data” reveals useful information for a Facebook that now has an open war with Apple.
The Cupertino company has started rolling out its privacy labels (privacy labels) in the App Store, and with them shows and “cheats” on the data collected by applications. In the case of WhatsApp, it is clear how this tool collects contacts from our mobile, commercial data when we use Facebook services or the IP that can be used to geolocate us with some precision.
Our messages are encrypted, but everything else is not
In WhatsApp they seem to be clear: “the security and privacy of our users are part of our DNA,” they say when talking about their end-to-end encryption system. The content of our messages certainly seems to be safe from curious, but the problem goes beyond that content.
As explained on Forbes Ian Thornton-Trump, CISO of cybersecurity firm Cyjax, “metadata – the data about your data – is almost as powerful as the content of the messages “.
Those metadata reveal who do you know, who you text with, when and how often. Or those who know your contacts and those who send messages. These metadats are the ones that feed Facebook’s information mining machine, and things get worse if we take into account that Facebook has begun to intertwine WhatsApp with Instagram and with the social network itself in order to form a fairly juicy profile of each user who touch any of those services.
Those moves are compounded by the attitude of Apple, which has made several moves aimed at protecting that privacy. The last of them has been the implementation of those ‘privacy labels’ that allow inform users of the data that is collected when we install and use applications through the App Store.
With these tags, users who install WhatsApp will see the information it collects. “Users” claim at Apple “learn about some of the types of data an application can collect, and if that data is linked to it or can be used to monitor it. ”
Facebook has already protested against this measure by publishing full-page ads in some of the most popular newspapers from the United States.
If you take a walk through the App Store and look for WhatsApp Messenger, you will see how in the new section “Privacy of the app” a lot of collected data appears, something that of course reveals how beyond the content there is relevant information that Facebook can take advantage of for its advertising business.
WhatsApp issued a statement about that new Apple measure, and in his message he explained how his service collects data “in order to operate a reliable global service.” Although they collect data such as the contacts we send messages to, “We do not share contact lists with anyone for use, not even with Facebook“.
Apple’s proposal certainly seems like a good way for users to be more informed about what happens behind the scenes when they use applications like these, but on Facebook and WhatsApp this is more of a direct attack against some services that need to collect that information to monetize user activity. As said that one, “if you don’t pay for the product, you are the product.” Or not?